149. Scattered Pieces

Celeste and Saphane finally dragged their bodies apart and both struggled weakly in their grasps. Titus had already noticed the stinging pain of Celeste’s fingers clawing mercilessly into his throat as he was pressed backwards and under water again. Confused by the suddenly severed connection he dimly perceived the chapter mistress raising her sword when a shadow fleeted over his vision and the pressure subsided. He came up and spat water.
On the other side of the bathtub Vox shook violently with the strain of regaining control over her body. She had managed to lift the chaplain up and hurl her against Celeste.
Vox gasped for air and Titus struggled back towards her. She fell into his arms and slung her wings around him protectively. A dangerous shiver went through her while Celeste and Saphane untangled themselves and assessed the situation in an instant.
Titus closed his eyes.
These women had been Vox’s guardians much longer than he had been. Of course, they knew what kind of danger a potent psyker posed under stress. Of course, they would kill her before she could rip open a warp gate. Of course, they would never risk the ship going down for… their saint?
When the bullets failed to come, Titus had a split second to look up and he saw that Celeste held Saphane back while glaring at them with an intense, cold hunger in her eyes.
He had no time to reflect on this because the angel in his arms burst into flames. The fire was blood red, changed to white all of a sudden and then went out. It had taken merely a second and left Vox trembling in his arms together with the smell of scorched hair and skin. Every patch of skin she had touched was screaming pain at him but he still tried to hold onto her. His instinct to protect could only be quelled when he realised that she pushed away from him on her own accord.
Vox had to talk to her friends, lest they wanted to die here after all. He still held on to her with his burned fingers and she grasped his hands back to tell him that she was herself now.
“Vox, you’re bleeding again!”, Saphane gasped when her lady turned around to them. Vox looked down at herself, a tear dripping from her chin. The wound under her costal arch had opened, spitting rather too much blood.
“This is Celeste”, the chapter mistress engaged her vox com while her intense gaze remained fixed on her lady. “I need an apothecary at the bathing chambers immediately. Vox, what is all this supposed to mean?”, she demanded when she had closed the line. She still held the sword with which she had tried to kill Titus and was only just letting go of Saphane’s arm. “Why are you protecting him all of a sudden?”
Vox closed her eyes for a moment and summoned what strength she had left. She pushed Sanguinius aside, screaming at him that he would get all of them killed if he interfered any further.
When she opened her eyes, they burned with bitter wrath. 
“I am disappointed, my friends.” She said it slowly and coldly and her sisters shrank back from her in surprise. “Is nobody besides Titus ready to confront me anymore?”
Even from behind, Titus could see how much it cost her to walk forward through the water but she did. 
“How did I become who I am? Do you remember?”, she demanded. “Didn’t I have help? Your help? Did you not oppose me and curb me where you needed to? Or did you always let me run on blindly?”
She came to a halt directly in front of the two women and looked from one to the other.
“No, you didn’t. You knew your duty. As my friends. As my guardians. What did you do?”
Saphane looked away but Celeste held her gaze. 
“What did you do, Celeste? When was it that you still knew your duty?”
“On Baraban”, Celeste replied with a stunned kind of leaden anger. “A hundred and seventy years ago. I broke five bones in your face…”
Vox took an uncertain step back and because her hand groped for support, Titus stepped up to steady her quickly. 
“And because I have wings, I’m suddenly infallible?”, she asked him as she leaned into the lover’s support. “You saw me doing wrong but you stopped judging?”
“Vox, we…”, Saphane began but Celeste looked around with open anger on her face.
“Where’s that apothecary?”, she asked and left the bath.
“We didn’t mean to indulge or… whatever you think we’ve done”, Saphane meanwhile went on. “We were just so relieved that you were talking to us again. I mean… what you’ve accomplished… You speak as our Primarch and…”
“Look at me, Saphane!”, Vox rasped as an uncontrollable tremor started to run through her weakening body. As carefully as she could, she let herself sink into Titus’ embrace. The wings got in the way but the beloved man at her side managed to catch her when her legs gave way and held her out of the water.
“I’m still me”, Vox sighed. “Still fallible and more dangerous than ever! How could you not have…” A terrible tremor ran through her but she took up her gasped words again: “I was wrong. I did wrong. There would have been other ways.” She closed her eyes for a moment and had trouble opening them again while the blood ran over her belly in bright red streams. “I need you, my friends. All of you. If you don’t trust your own judgement, trust in Titus”, she breathed. “He is my right hand…”
Titus and Saphane had only time to exchange a concerned glance before they finally heard running feet outside.
Celeste came back, Dankwart and another apothecary at her heels. The chapter mistress displayed nothing but perfect focus in a tight corner. Her well placed command snapped Saphane out of her moment of shock to see Vox dwindle before her. Together they lifted Titus with Vox in his arms out of the water and seconds later, the apothecaries were at work.
Everything that followed was done quickly but not hastily and all in all the occasion was strangely unspectacular from here on.
They managed to get Titus into his robe and cover up Vox before she was brought back to the apothecarium.
Apparently, she had lost a lot of blood but there was almost no internal bruising and no build up of fluids that could damage her organs. Titus was informed that this was basically the exact opposite of what the wound had caused until now, and neither Dankwart nor Gerneya, who had joined them hastily, knew what to make of it.
Since they were in the warp, Titus stayed with his beloved to hold her hand to shield her even while his burns were treated.
It was late when this episode was over. Titus lay on his sleep slab like he had done it for many weeks: Holding Vox’s hand and worrying about her.
He had gotten the chance to talk to Celeste and Saphane. The chapter mistress had been enraged in a very worrying, quiet way when she had heard that Vox had confirmed Titus as her right hand and somehow, it had been impossible to talk to her after this. She had been compliant and polite but there had been something about her demeanour Titus needed to discuss with Vox.
A chapter was a complex system of individual opinion. As long as the leaders were of one mind, it was a force to be reckoned with but if two strong-willed individuals like Vox and Celeste started to work against each other, it could break the chapter in half with ease.
For now, the angel was slumbering and although her sanguinary priests had ensured Titus that she was out of danger for once, he still worried more about her than about Celeste.
For all this going through his head, Titus was still awake when she opened her eyes.
He jerked upright in surprise when she moved sluggishly. As soon as he bent over her, she laid her arms around his neck and pulled him close. Without a word, she merged their minds.
Titus was so relieved about this that it drowned out most of their troubles for a long time. When it subsided however, they decided that they needed to part again. They were starting to amplify their nagging guilt and dismay about their failings in recent times tenfold. Having escaped the icy grasp of Sanguinius, they saw no future in falling to madness as compensation. So, they drew back from each other.
When Vox rolled around to snuggle up more tightly, she accidentally pulled the needle of the blood transfusion out of her hand and the red liquid merrily flooded her slab and dripped on the floor before they found out how to stall the flow.
The smell of cold blood was greatly unsettling. They buried their faces as close to the loved one as possible to take in the heat and smell that made them as calm and content as they could be right now.
“Vox?”, Titus mumbled after a while. “Not that I’m complaining but why are you awake?”
“I don’t know”, she replied. “I certainly don’t feel like it. Why are you asking?”
“Gerneya said the wound behaved oddly.”
“Oh, that.” Vox gave a dismissive snort. “Would you believe it? Remember that he told you, a warp blade damages the essence as well as the body?”
“And instead of leaving it alone, he kept ripping the wound open with his wrath and resentment. Every time we quarrelled about me having saved you and Corven, it started bleeding again and he just wouldn’t let it lie.”
“So, now you’re back in charge…?”
Vox smiled and kissed him.
“I know what I got in return”, she whispered, tightening her arms around him. “It should heal now.”
Titus had to let this sink in for a moment.
“Do you think you can lie on your belly?”, he asked and started to pull her in a certain way. 
“Didn’t you get badly burned?”, she wanted to know while she allowed him to roll her onto his chest.
“Mh-hm”, he replied with a content smile while he closed his arms around her.
Escaped from the puddle of blood, they breathed in unison for a while.
“I wish I could do something for Ferone”, Vox muttered and carefully closed her still quite wet wings around both of them.
“Did Elaine really conspire with xenos?”
“I think I remember something like this”, she replied slowly. “Everything Zork could give me on the matter sounded very familiar. I might have found out that she made a deal with a few Eldar when we worked together but I’m certain that she was far from friendly towards them. She mostly prioritised other threats higher I believe.” Vox sighed deeply and cringed a bit for the ensuing sting in her chest. “But for my dear Ferone, who fights the xenos every day and is so conscientious and upright…” She sighed again. “Sanguinius didn’t have to tweak the facts much.”
They both stared into the dim half-light for a while.
“I’m glad you’re back”, Titus breathed.
“Everyone makes their own mistakes”, Vox said and there was a quiet, leaden dismay in her tone. “Let’s see where I fail next…”
“Yes”, Titus said soothingly, softly pressing her to himself despite the protests from his burned skin. “Let’s keep an eye out for them and see if we can’t do something about them together.”
Vox had to laugh quietly.
“You’re sweet”, she said, lifting her hand to stroke through his hair. “And I’m eternally grateful to have you at my side.”
“Since you are taking me under your wings so kindly I can hardly refuse”, Titus replied peaceably and laughed because Vox lifted said wings and shook them. A fine spray of droplets settled over both of them.
“They feel awful”, she mumbled a little grumpily.
“Should they get as wet as this at all?”, Titus inquired, ruffling a few feathers gently. “I always thought birds were waterproof.”
“I have no idea.”
At this point, the exhaustion claimed them and they fell silent. The sensations of the lover carried them over into sleep.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

Creative Commons Licence

Guide Me Through the Darkness by Julia M. V. Warren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Leave A Comment